I am just going to say it… Small groups and small group ministries within church organizations need to be terminated. Yes, I said it… nixed, annihilated.
They simply do not work.
Small groups create disciples as much as working at McDonald’s creates quality 5-star chefs. Small groups do not create disciples; disciples create disciples. And the way small groups are led within the walls of most institutions I know of or have been a part of, are typically led by people who have attended that particular church, had some sort of “conversion” experience within the walls, probably led a reasonably moral life, and knows how to read study-guide questions. However, in all actuality most of them are nowhere near disciples themselves.
From my experience, I would say most American churches have lowered the bar of small group leadership to a ridiculous level. Church staff has lowered the bar to the point that I feel the whole church organization would be better off not even offering small groups at all than to have so-called leaders who are nowhere near a disciple of Christ lead them.
I think these small groups get started on the wrong foot.. because the foot is human.
The way I see small groups forming is by a bunch of well-intentioned Christians, armed with the latest “Christian” fad they learned from a weekend conference that stressed some sort of organizational theory that persuaded their pragmatic hearts into believing they themselves could actually organize, measure, and control the unseen power of The Holy Spirit.
Many institutional churches believe this crap. If a person can read, they can lead. Ever heard that one before?
I remember going to leadership training and 90% of the classes were how to come up with and perform “ice-breakers” to get the group to know each other. Wow, I look back on how scripted everything was to get people to like you and to like Christ … what a bunch of bullshit that is.
Looking back on my 10 years heavily involved in “institutional” church thinking, here is on thing I noticed since I cleared my mind after leaving. The groups of people who helped me grow as a disciple started out by what appeared to be an accident. I never grew spiritually from some fake church-wide small group initiative the senior pastor or marketing team thought up to help grow “small group” attendance… because they heard some top-notch church analysts say they should maintain a certain “worship-small group” ratio each and every week.
I can only speak for myself, but let me know if you have felt similar. I felt myself growing spiritually when I was not even looking for it. There were times I was not even remotely interested in joining a small group. Most of the time, when I was not participating, and I was just getting together with people just out of the pure joy of being together with them in Christ (and with no curriculum, or agenda), it just happened… naturally and spontaneously.
Within all the small group studies I have been a part of, and there were a bunch, I never felt like anyone ever wanted to break the surface and actually open their hearts with one another. Until a community is based on Christ and is Christ focused alone, people will never break the surface. In other words, you get great surface friendships from these groups, but do you really ever grow as His Body?
So, I see disciples being created “outside”. Small groups, by their “church” practice, mostly occur “inside”.
As a joke, I think. Small groups are wonderful at producing Christians who can sit in a circle and talk to one another inside a building, and while they are sitting in a building they can comment on the Bible together. Then you hear them spouting over and over how they long to “get outside” and do something that matters, and then never do. Then these small group people awkwardly end their time by praying for “prayer requests”. See my post on how much I dislike “prayer requests”.
So here is a question for you. Do you honestly think Jesus would either join, lead, or even start a small group within the structure of an institutional church’s small group ministry?
If so, please explain… I say hell would freeze over first.
(Disclaimer.. I am not saying we should never get together in groups … far from it. I do believe we were created to be together as His Body in community, just not by human-made “Christian” concepts)